Why Managers Need to Play to Their Employees’ Strengths

3 min read
Jan 25, 2017


Wouldn’t it be great if all of your employees knew how to tackle every single job responsibility that existed at your organization? Sure. But that’s not how the world works.

Still, that doesn’t keep some managers from pushing all of their employees to continuously gain new skills. Despite the best intentions in the world, such an approach can actually do more harm than good.


Each Employee Isnt Created Equally

Some folks — your high-potential employees — are innately more talented and more motivated than the average worker. Beyond that, as Carol Dweck’s research teaches us, people are governed by one of two mind-sets:

  • The fixed mind-set tells us that we’re born with a specific set of skills and simply can’t develop new ones over time
  • Those governed by a growth mind-set, on the other hand, believe that they can keep learning and developing new skills on a daily basis

A growth mind-set correlates to more success in the office. Still, some employees are governed by fixed mind-sets — there’s no way around it.

Instead of forcing or even encouraging every single employee to develop new skills on a regular basis, managers would be better off playing to their employees’ individual strengths. For employees that have growth mind-sets and enjoy learning new things, that involves helping them developing additional skills continually. For employees with fixed mind-sets, that involves letting them focus their energies on what they do best. For example, the member of your marketing team who believes they were born to write and isn’t interested in doing anything but writing can stick to creating blog posts, e-books, emails, case studies, and white papers. The engineer who loves writing code but wants to learn how to sell can do both.

Workers who use their strengths every day are 15% less likely to quit their jobs


Benefits of Playing to Strength

According to a recent survey from Gallup, workers who use their strengths every day are:

  • 8% more productive than their peers who are forced to do things they don’t want to do
  • 15% less likely to quit their jobs
  • Six times more engaged with their work
  • Three times as likely to report an enjoyable quality of life

We all know what it’s like to have to do things at work that we dread doing. To a certain extent, it’s a completely unavoidable reality of what it’s like to have a job. Still, being forced to do things that we don’t want to do over and over again isn’t exactly inspiring.

Instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach to management, allow your employees to pursue the things they’re most interested in pursuing — which will generally be the things they’re most talented at. If you’re not sure what those interests are, ask them directly.

The more enjoyable work is for your employees, the better you company culture will be and the more productive your team will be in the aggregate. While you can hold your employees to the same standard — you want them to contribute in measurable ways — you shouldn’t force all of them to perform job functions that are identical to one another.

It’s a lot harder to change an employee than it is to tweak a job description. Play to your workers’ strengths and let them invest their energies in what they do best. They’ll be happier to show up to work every day and it will be impossible to not notice the difference.



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